STAFFORD: How do cattle really impact the environment?

 

By Carl C. Stafford, Star-Exponent (VA)

Cot 14, 2020

 

Finding the facts is challenging and takes time, something we are often short of. So we take the easy route—I get it.

 

In the world of science, decisions driven by reliable numbers will often turn out to be correct when compared to an opinion, an early lesson I learned from Farm Management Agents.

 

The publication Progressive Cattle offers in their October issue an article by Jaclyn Krymowski about cattle and climate. A graduate of Ohio State with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications, her article, “Understanding Fact and Fiction on Beef and Climate Change,” is worth reading when seeking guidance on what to believe about this polarizing issue.

 

She found the book “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” by Henning Steinfeld used an apples and oranges approach in comparing livestock and transportation sectors. Economists tell us that methods used to reach conclusions must be the same, or adjust for differences to be comparable. Simply put, when the methods are different comparisons can mislead.

 

The big change in air quality and Green House Gases (GHG) in and around our cities over the last six months was obvious from images seen. What happened? —We traveled less and used less energy. This is a big hint in the expected difference in GHG emissions coming from transportation/energy sectors compared to beef cattle. Let us see how much.

 

Cattle release methane as a byproduct of digestion, they belch a lot to release this gas. It breaks down into carbon dioxide in the environment. According to the EPA, only about 2% of GHG emissions come from cattle, while transportation and electricity combined produce more than 55%. These numbers can change with improvements in efficiency.

 

American agriculture is constantly improving. Finished cattle today produce 50% more beef than in 1950 so it takes fewer of them if demand is the same. By weight beef cattle are more efficient. A fair comparison of GHG emissions to our food sectors would be in calories. Pounds of food, on the other hand, are not equal. A pound of lettuce and pound of beef have big differences in calorie content.

 

As for storing carbon, our grazing land is key...

 

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https://starexponent.com/opinion/stafford-how-do-cattle-really-impact-the-environment/article_2919984b-b036-5ba3-9a39-b4fa446ae384.html

 

 

Carbon tax 'unfair' hit on Welsh beef cattle

 

By Debbie James, Western Telegraph (UK)

13th October 2020

 

Plans to impose a £100 carbon tax on prime beef cattle finished later than 27 months old could result in the phasing out of important traditional breeds that play an important role in managing Wales’ hills and uplands.

 

The industry body, the National Beef Association (NBA), is suggesting that a levy would deter producers from retaining older, slower-growing and less efficient cattle, cutting the sector’s carbon footprint and streamlining production.

 

It wants a change in rules that define animals as prime cattle between 12 and 30 months.

 

 But the proposal could impact Welsh beef producers disproportionately and, instead of achieving the desired outcome of protecting the environment, it could be harmful.

 

In Wales, many beef systems use regenerative farming practices and are less intensive.

 

Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) president Glyn Roberts, who runs a beef and sheep farm with his daughter Beca in Ysbyty Ifan, north Wales, says the union has received many calls from angry members since the NBA launched its proposals.

 

“Many highlighted the particular impact the proposal would have for traditional breeds and certain farming systems which are of particular importance to the environment,’’ he says.

 

He suggests the proposal is a blunt instrument for solving a problem that is not “black and white’’.

 

“While the carbon benefits of finishing animals more quickly are well known for certain farming systems, for other more traditional systems where animals are finished over a longer period such a black and white proposal did not make sense from an environmental perspective, including in relation to carbon,’’ says Mr Roberts.

 

The concerns will be raised at a joint meeting of the FUW’s livestock, wool and marts and hill farming and marginal land committees later this month.

 

Around 10.6 per cent of the 1.5 million prime beef cattle slaughtered each year in the UK are aged between 28 and 30 months.

 

Some farmers support the NBA plan...

 

more

https://www.westerntelegraph.co.uk/news/farming/18792716.carbon-tax-unfair-hit-welsh-beef-cattle/